It’s no secret how big a fan I was of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band when I was growing up. I can’t even begin to tell you how many concerts I attended and some before they became really famous. Growing up in NJ, we were the first in the country to hear of the phenomenon who would later become The Boss. But it wasn’t until The Big Man joined the band in October 1972 that everything changed when that distinctive saxophone element was added. Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen would become history.
Clarence Clemons passed away on Sunday at the age of 69, a week after suffering a stroke. I love the story he tells of the night he met Bruce Springsteen:
"One night we were playing in Asbury Park. I'd heard The Bruce Springsteen Band was nearby at a club called The Student Prince and on a break between sets I walked over there. On-stage, Bruce used to tell different versions of this story but I'm a Baptist, remember, so this is the truth. A rainy, windy night it was, and when I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street. The band were on-stage, but staring at me framed in the doorway. And maybe that did make Bruce a little nervous because I just said, 'I want to play with your band,' and he said, 'Sure, you do anything you want.'
"The first song we did was an early version of Spirit In The Night. Bruce and I looked at each other and didn't say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other's lives. He was what I'd been searching for. In one way he was just a scrawny little kid. But he was a visionary. He wanted to follow his dream. So from then on I was part of history."
The Jungleland solo from the Born To Run album (1980) is, for me, Clarence Clemons’ signature piece. I found this on YouTube, newly posted, but I thought it was interesting with the different camera angles. You can even see the name on the saxaphone. Don’t know when this video was made, 2009 maybe.
The last time I heard this solo, and the most memorable, occurred just over a year ago, driving east from New Orleans one night, along Route 10 in Mississippi. In the car were friends that my husband and I had known from the old concert going days of our youth. And for one magic moment, the music took us back.
Years ago, that would have been me, in the 3rd row there, waving my arms to the music. I can still hear it now.
Rest in Peace, Big Man.
Until tomorrow, my friends . . .